- When: Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
- Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
The roughest part of the schedule is behind us. The Thunder went 3-2 against some of the more elite teams in the Eastern Conference. They pushed their record above .500. Now, it’s go time in regards of getting at least to the 8th seed in the Western Conference. The Phoenix Suns (the current 8th seed) have one of the toughest second half schedules in the league and the New Orleans Pelicans (the current 9th seed) have injury issues. Luckily, the Thunder still have two games against both these teams. In a way, the Thunder still control their fate in regards to getting to the playoffs.
This is the second and final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder defeated the Knicks in late November, 105-78, in what was Russell Westbrook’s first game back from a broken hand. In that game, Westbrook tallied 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists in resounding “I’m baaaack” fashion. That game was missing the past two scoring champions, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, due to injury.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014-15 New York Knickerbockers. I have no idea where the wheels fell off with this team. I predicted they would sneak into the East playoffs at the beginning of the season. With a record of 8-37, the Knicks are currently tied with the 76ers for the second worst record in the league. The rank 29th in points scored per game and rebounding, and have an MOV of -8.0. Injuries have played a part, but chemistry and personnel have been the bigger issue. In turbulent times, though, when a team starts to trim the fat and rebuild itself anew, you sometimes find diamonds where there was only coal. Langston Galloway, an undrafted rookie free agent, has emerged as a consistent starter for the Knicks since his signing a week into the new year. He is averaging 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game in the last 4 games, with the Knicks recording a 3-1 record in those games. New York lost a lot of its guard depth in the trade that sent JR Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cleveland Cavaliers. So finding a player like Galloway has been a bit of a life saver for New York. The Knicks have been using Jose Calderon as the other guard, but he may be still recovering from a bruised knee suffered in their last game played. If he can’t go, expect Tim Hardaway Jr. to start in his place. Carmelo Anthony has had a most disappointing season and appears to be on the “Play one game, miss one game” veteran plan. He can still fill up the scoreboard (24.1 points per game), but appears to be looking towards April instead of any game in January – April. If he can’t go, look for former Thunder player Lance Thomas to take his place. Probably the most consistent players for the Knicks this season have been Amar’e Stoudemire and Cole Aldrich. Now, consistent doesn’t necessarily mean great, or even good for that matter, but it’s a start. Unfortunately, those two players come off the bench in favor of Lou Amundson and Jason Smith. Another veteran that provides good minutes off the bench is Pablo Prigioni.
New York Knicks
- PG – Langston Galloway
- SG – Tim Hardaway Jr.
- SF – Carmelo Anthony
- PF – Lou Amundson
- C – Jason Smith
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Andre Roberson
- SF – Perry Jones
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Steven Adams
3 Keys to the Game
1. Trap Game Potential – This just feels like one of those games where a Langston Galloway or a Tim Hardaway Jr. could erupt for 30-40 points on us. Many are looking at this game like a guaranteed win, but I see this game as a huge trap game. The Thunder are missing Kevin Durant and have been in an offensive slump in the past 4 games. With the Knicks on a bit of a hot streak, playing at home, and playing against their coach’s old team, I could see them coming out full bore against the Thunder.
2. Bench Production – With Durant out and the team struggling offensively, the bench stepped up to help the Thunder beat the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves. They scored 45 points between four players (Reggie Jackson, Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, and Nick Collison). Were they efficient? Not necessarily, but they put pressure on the Wolves and got a lot of open looks (some of which, they actually made). The Thunder reserves will likely have to be just as aggressive in this game.
3. Russell Westbrook – Westbrook is such a nice guy. Every time he sees a player, especially a rookie, that is playing well, he wants to absolutely destroy that player to let them know he exists. Langston Galloway, you’re next on the list. Initiate “New Point Guard Destruction” protocols.